Exciting news – book cover commission

I’ve had some very exciting news – the author of the book mentioned in my last posting likes my proposal and the image that I created, and it will therefore be on the cover of his new book.

A friend of mine, Simon Barrow, is involved in a publishing house, Shoving Leopard, and a new book by Kevin Scully is due out shortly (shortly being… a launch on 2. July!).  The book is called Imperfect Mirrors, and although I’ve not had the opportunity to read it, Simon has talked to me about it, and the advance blurb gives some indication of the book’s contents:

What can be brought to the liturgy by the disciplines of dramatic performance? How are the respective theatres of daily life and worship to be seen and experienced together? East End priest, playwright, actor, writer and broadcaster Kevin Scully is very well placed to tackle these issues. In this eagerly awaited forthcoming title from Shoving Leopard [he] does so with insight, humour, a sharp eye, and a well-crafted turn of phrase.

What the author wanted was something that represented the idea of an imperfect mirror as a way of thinking about how theatre might impact on the church.  Simon initially asked if I had an image he could use, but nothing really suitable came to mind: an image I sent him of a church reflected in a lake received a lukewarm reaction when sent on to the author.  So something else was needed.

For quite a while I’ve had an idea I wanted to play with questions of how we understand and interpret reality.  I imagined someone looking into a mirror, but whilst the pose would be identical (I had thought of applying make-up or brushing hair or similar) the mirror image would not be an exact reflection: from the back they would be naked/dressed in one way, but in the mirror they would be dressed/dressed in something completely different.  From this it was a short step to suggest to Simon and Kevin theatrical clothing of some kind for the image from the back, with a reflection of the same person in a clerical shirt in the mirror.  But what kind of theatrical clothing?  What would obviously communicate drama when all that was visible was the back?  The back of most clothing is often rather boring… The obvious solution was to think of something with representational detail on the back, so some kind of vintage dress with ribbon ties at the back seemed like a good option.  But aside from being potentially rather expensive, I thought a full dress might detract from the image in the mirror, and so I decided that a corset would be better: (a) it would leave naked skin visible above the fabric providing more of a contrast with the clerical shirt, (b) the ribbons would contrast with and provide shadows on the skin, and (c) the suggestion of sex that a corset makes would contrast nicely with the power of a clerical shirt to kill off any sensuality on the part of the wearer.  After visiting the wonderful Armstrong’s Vintage in Clerk Street I was the proud owner of two different vintage-style corsets.  The clerical shirt was even easier to procure as I’m married to a church minister!  My friend Fran Whitton, who quite a while ago said she would be happy to model for me (though we never quite managed to organise it), was happy to be drafted in at short notice, and with a little bit of help from my friend Photoshop, she makes for a perfect corset-wearing actor as well as a church minister (warm thanks to Mabel Forsyth who acted as my assistant, and to my wife for helping Fran with the clothes as well as assisting me):

Imperfect mirrors

Imperfect mirrors

Interestingly, after sending a first version of my image to Kevin Scully, he told me that he had suggested René Magritte’s La Reproduction Interdite to Simon a while ago as the basis of a cover image – though Simon had completely forgotten to tell me about this.  Though I had come across it years ago, I had not consciously thought of it at all in my plans.

Of course, I’m delighted that my image is going to be used for a book, and I can’t wait for it to come out (and then read it!).  But one of the interesting issues for me here is the question of inspiration and ownership.  Whilst Magritte’s painting must have been buried somewhere in my subconscious memory, the idea for such a reflected image had been with me for a while. Kevin Scully’s book – even though I haven’t read it! – provided that last little prompt to come up with something a bit different.  I keep my browser’s internet history for a year, and on skimming through it there is nothing that looks like this.  But there are clearly multiple sources of inspiration in each image we create, and in this instance I am happy to acknowledge René Magritte’s painting, Kevin Scully’s book theme, and Simon Barrow’s blurb writing skills – and of course, Fran’s posing.  Whilst in western thought we have created an ideology of ‘intellectual property’ that means this photograph is my copyright, the inspiration and ‘intellectual ownership’ for almost everything we create surely belongs to a much wider circle of people.  A reflective little essay on inspirations is beginning to come together for release here.

P.S. I’m sure someone will add a comment with a link pointing to an image that does just the same kind of thing with distorting reality in a mirror… if you know of one, please do add it below! 🙂


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